Blocking glutamine pumps suppresses melanoma cell growth

February 19, 2014, Science in Public
Jeff Holst in his lab at the Centenary Institute

The latest research from Sydney's Centenary Institute and the University of Sydney suggests we could.

Last year the researchers showed they could starve . Now a further discovery opens up the prospect of a new class of drugs that could work across a range of cancers including .

Australia has the highest rate of melanoma in the world. It is the deadliest form of , and third most common in Australia.

Unlike normal cells, melanoma and other cancer cells rely on the amino acid glutamine instead of glucose for the energy required to divide and grow. Thus, in order to fuel their rapid growth, cancer cells need to pump glutamine into their cells.

New research published today in the International Journal of Cancer has found that not only do have more glutamine pumps on their surface, but that blocking these pumps stops their growth. The work was led by Dr Jeff Holst, who heads the Centenary Institute's Origins of Cancer Research Group, together with post-doctoral fellow Dr Qian (Kevin) Wang.

"We've shown that if we starve melanoma of these essential nutrients, we can stop the cancer from growing," says Dr Holst. "This involves blocking the protein pumps that move glutamine into tumour cells, which successfully slowed the growth of the tumours in cell cultures", he says.

Although often curable if detected early, melanoma is one of the most difficult cancers to treat once it has spread, says Dr Holst, because it rapidly develops resistance to known therapies. "But a drug that specifically targets and inhibits the glutamine pump will give us a new and different approach from current treatments."

"This work is leading a new wave with potential to develop cancer therapeutic agents. These drug targets, rather than mutations specific to the cancer, are exaggerated normal processes," says Centenary Executive Director Mathew Vadas.

"This is a long journey to the clinic, but it's an exciting development," Dr Holst says. He hopes such a compound can be developed and tested in five to 10 years.

Last year Dr Holst's group published a paper in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showing that prostate require another amino acid, leucine, for their growth. "We first demonstrated this nutrient pumping mechanism in prostate cancers, and it now looks like it occurs in a broad range of cancers, particularly solid cancers such as melanoma. This opens the possibility of designing therapies that can be used to block nutrient pumps across multiple cancers."

Explore further: Starving prostate cancer

More information: Wang, Q., Beaumont, K. A., Otte, N. J., Font, J., Bailey, C. G., van Geldermalsen, M., Sharp, D. M., Tiffen, J. C., Ryan, R. M., Jormakka, M., Haass, N. K., Rasko, J. E.J. and Holst, J. (2014), "Targeting glutamine transport to suppress melanoma cell growth." Int. J. Cancer. DOI: 10.1002/ijc.28749

Related Stories

Starving prostate cancer

November 2, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers at the Centenary Institute in Sydney have discovered a potential future treatment for prostate cancer—through starving the tumor cells of an essential nutrient they need to grow rapidly.

A tiny RNA with a big role in melanoma

February 18, 2014
A Yale-led study has identified a key mechanism in the regulation of gene expression that promotes the proliferation of melanoma cells. The finding opens a possible avenue for development of treatments that target this mechanism. ...

Study reveals how cancer cells thrive in oxygen-starved tumors

February 4, 2014
A new study identifies the molecular pathway that enables cancer cells to grow in areas of a tumor where oxygen levels are low, a condition called hypoxia.

Proteins that deliver leucine to prostate cancer cells are therapeutic targets

September 19, 2013
Like normal cells, cancer cells require amino acids for growth, maintenance, and cell signaling, and L-type amino acid transporters (LATs) are the delivery vehicles that supply them. Metastatic, castration-resistant prostate ...

New prostate cancer drugs may not be targeting root cause of disease, scientists warn

January 27, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—New drugs being developed for the treatment of prostate cancer may not be targeting the root cause of the disease, according to research published today (Friday, 24 January 2014) in Cell Death & Differentiation.

Recommended for you

Researchers develop a remote-controlled cancer immunotherapy system

January 15, 2018
A team of researchers has developed an ultrasound-based system that can non-invasively and remotely control genetic processes in live immune T cells so that they recognize and kill cancer cells.

Pancreatic tumors may require a one-two-three punch

January 15, 2018
One of the many difficult things about pancreatic cancer is that tumors are resistant to most treatments because of their unique density and cell composition. However, in a new Wilmot Cancer Institute study, scientists discovered ...

New immunotherapy approach boosts body's ability to destroy cancer cells

January 12, 2018
Few cancer treatments are generating more excitement these days than immunotherapy—drugs based on the principle that the immune system can be harnessed to detect and kill cancer cells, much in the same way that it goes ...

Cancer's gene-determined 'immune landscape' dictates progression of prostate tumors

January 12, 2018
The field of immunotherapy - the harnessing of patients' own immune systems to fend off cancer - is revolutionizing cancer treatment today. However, clinical trials often show marked improvements in only small subsets of ...

FDA approves first drug for tumors tied to breast cancer genes

January 12, 2018
(HealthDay)—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the first drug aimed at treating metastatic breast cancers linked to the BRCA gene mutation.

Breast cancer gene does not boost risk of death: study

January 12, 2018
Young women with the BRCA gene mutation that prompted actress Angelina Jolie's pre-emptive and much-publicised double mastectomy are not more likely to die after a breast cancer diagnosis, scientists said Friday.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.